Economics is the subject I most wish I had studied earlier than I did. Although my school offered an A-level in the subject, a motivation to understand money and its growth and disappearance only arose very gradually over the following years, as I grappled increasingly with my own finances at the onset of independent adult life. You may think I had a sheltered childhood!

I started to be really intrigued by economics thanks to the Jubilee Centre, especially the work of Dr Paul Mills on alternatives to interest, and the general idea of developing Christian approaches to finance and banking. I then enjoyed a kind of crash course in the form of a research post that I unexpectedly landed part-way through my post-doctoral career (for which the main qualifications were statistical competence and no formal economics training). Tasked with building simple models of trading, I began to read textbooks and papers that provided the rudiments of a systematic understanding of the dynamics of monetary value. At the same time, my line-manager – also a Christian – shared his insights into finance, and I took minutes at numerous meetings with executives in investment, trading and banking.

But the scholar in me remained unsatisfied. What is money, and where does it come from? Why do people care so much about GDP? Why do CEOs earn salaries well over 100 times the UK median, and even more compared to the lowest-paid workers, while financial inequality seems to grow continually? Perhaps one sign of my lack of formal economics training is my reluctance to separate what economists call ‘normative’ from ‘positive’ questions… [1]

I still don’t have satisfying answers to any of those questions. And from what I read, hear and see around me now as I dabble increasingly in economics in my university work, I rather doubt that an A-level in Economics would have settled these things for me (though I daresay it would have helped). But I’m increasingly convinced of the need for transparent, realist and integrated perspectives. I say ‘transparent’ because economics and finance sometimes seem to suffer from a cultivated obfuscation, ‘realist’ because of the dominance of theoretical work based on implausible assumptions, and ‘integrated’ because economies are complex and grounded in so many aspects of human life. I am aware of various initiatives to extend, diversify and ground economics education: Exploring Economics, Promoting Economic Pluralism, New Economics Foundation, Positive Money, to name a few. But I also think we need a radically Christian perspective. Typing Christian introduction to economics into Amazon doesn’t produce much, although I have to say I am impressed by the recently-published Cathonomics by Anthony Annett. I do know that a few of my colleagues in the Reformational tradition are working towards a primer to, or rethink of, economics, and I look forward to seeing fruit from these.

But this post is also a request for you, dear reader, to share the most promising initiatives you know of. What should an 18 or 19 -year-old Christian student read while studying (or even instead of studying) mainstream economics?


[1] Economists typically use “positive” to refer to matters of fact or theory which are supposedly untouched by normative concerns. (This is a dogma that a Reformational approach would surely dispense with!)

Image from Alpha Stock Images – (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Richard Gunton
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Richard Gunton

Richard is the Director of Faith-in-Scholarship at Thinking Faith Network. He also teaches statistics at the University of Winchester. His current passions include Reformational philosophy, history of sciences, ordination (the statistical sort), and wildlife gardening. He worships, and occasionally preaches, at St Mary's Church in Portchester. [Views expressed here are his own.]

1 Comment

Steve · August 16, 2023 at 3:39 pm

Hi Richard, I’ve listed some resources in economics here:

Alan Storkey’s Transforming economics is a good place to start.

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